Today I want to cover tofu. It's something people ask me about quite often, so maybe there are a lot of people out there who have questions about it.
What is tofu?
Tofu is soy bean curd. If you are interested in the poduction and history of tofu, wiki covers that in depth here.
What does it taste like?
Tofu has little flavor of its own. It absorbs the flavor of surrounding spices and sauces. The texture varies, depending on the coagulants used in its production, from a yogurt consistency (silken)to a sponge (firm). It is often found in vegetarian curries, stir fries, sauces, desserts, appetizers and so on. It is extremely versatile.
What is tofu's nutritional value?
There have been a lot of folks arguing over whether soy might be bad for you. There have been some inconsistent animal-based studies showing tenuous links to cancer and some other ailments. What I have found so far is nothing that I feel like I need to be concerned with at this point. It is a topic I will certainly cover in more depth later on.
As far as the basic nutritional components in tofu, it is a very nutritious food that is both high in protein and low in calories and fat:
Firm Tofu, nutritional data, click here. Typically comes in little plastic "boxes" with a thin plastic film lid in the produce or dairy sections of the supermarket. It is packaged in water, so cut around the edge of the film with a sharp knife, leave the film on and press out the water over a sink. I then remove and squeez a liitle more in my hands, but not too hard! You don't want it to crumble.
Silken Tofu, nutritional data, click here. Packaged like firm but also sometimes found in little rectangular cardboard "cartons" in the produce area. I use silken as is.
Tofu is around $2.75 a package. Packages of firm are usually around 16 oz. and I believe silken is somewhat smaller
What do you do with tofu?
Lots of things. For this post I chose two recipes from the web that I have never tried before because I realized that I was kind of in a slump with my tofu; always using it in curries and stir fries. It is so much more than that. Steve and I have even discovered a few restaurants in town that make some fabulous plain old fried tofu appetizers as well. Mad Mex and Kaya all a part of the local Big Burrito chain, which we very much enjoy for their vegan options. We do not enjoy all restaurants that have vegan options. Flavor is very important to us.
The two new-to-me dishes I chose to show case the versatility and texture of tofu as well as its nutritional value in a vegan or vegetarian diet are (1) lasagna and (2)chocolate silken tofu pie. Follow the links for the recipes. I significantly tweaked the lasagna recipe as I thought it was a little weak in flavor and texture, the silken pie was left as is.
Lasagna from allrecipes.com
Ragu Chunky Tomato, Garlic and Onion. (2) I always, ALWAYS use no bake lasagna noodles. Not really sure why they are called "no bake". They should be called "no boil" as you do just bake them in their hard form and they get soft while the lasagna bakes. Saves about a half an hour of prep and cost no more than the regular ones. (3) Added a package of browned crumbled (pulsed in the food processor) Tofurkey Italian Sauasage to the tofu mixture. (4) Added a little bit of soy cheese mozzarella-style to the top of the lasagna. I forget which brand we used or I would provide a link, apologies. I feel like the little bit of cheese added a lot to the dish. I would never skip it. What I would have done differently with this dish would have been to choose between the sausage and spinach, but without thinking, I left the spinach. It turned out delicious, although it would have been even more so with just one or the other. The photo is one I took of our product, of which I made two pans and of which we happily munched on all week.
Silken Chocolate Tofu Pie from VegWeb
Ghirardelli semi-sweet and Trader Joe's semi-sweet. I prefer Trader Joe's for a dessert like this. Ghirardelli is darker and more bitter. We actually used the Ghirardelli for this recipe though, because I hadn't tried them yet and I just didn't feel like driving to another store. Trader Joe's chocolate chips are about 30-40% cheaper as well. This is a pic of our finished pie, which didn't last long!
So there you have it folks, a brief introduction to tofu. As with any new thing, you just have to get out of your comfort zone, buy some, bring it home and have some fun. I did very little cooking before going vegan and I have enjoyed almost everything we've made so far. I would recommend taking it slow when you make something for the first time. I always do. It saves me from making a silly mistake and wasting perfectly good food. Google "tofu recipes" and you will find a world of tasty dishes waiting for you to try. Now get out there and give tofu a chance!